I feel really sorry for Mr. Adada Muhammadu.

A business owner, he's apparently suffering a great deal of tragedy in his home country of Nigeria and is looking for someone to safeguard $30 million that he holds in his bank account. Apparently, he recently inherited this amount from a wealthy relative and needs to get it out of his country as soon as possible. Naturally, he e-mailed me and asked if I could help for a 10 percent fee.

I'm thinking it over. It's a tough call.

I'm a busy guy with lots to do. I just don't have the time to e-mail him my bank account information and Social Security number, let alone travel to Nigeria, like he asks, to finalize arrangements. I'm supposed to take my daughter to a swim meet next week and I promised my wife I'd clean out the garage.

Otherwise I'd be good to go.

I'm just not a good candidate for him at this time. I wish he hadn't wasted his efforts on me. I guess my name came up on the list he purchased of smart, handsome men with hot wives. And I feel bad that he's throwing his money away on a list that he purchased that is not working out. So next time, Mr. Muhammadu, I have some penny-pinching advice for you.

For starters, I know a lot of good database companies that sell marketing lists. In fact, if you'd like some names, just e-mail me and I'll be glad to share a few with you.

Don't worry, Mr. Muhammadu. I don't agree with those few critics who theorize that the information these companies have is "throw-away" and out of date. This may be true in some cases, but I do know that there are many good database companies that invest in quality research and put a lot of emphasis on the integrity of the data they sell.

Even so, Mr. Muhammadu, you're going to need to be very careful when you buy your next list. Your e-mail reached me, but even with the best database companies around, my experience is that at least 50 percent of the contact info on a typical list is bad. A list can cost about $1 per name, so if you're going to drop $5,000-$10,000 (and many database companies have a minimum purchase in that range) you can expect thousands of e-mails to come bouncing back or returned letters. The cost of this could significantly bite into the $30 million you're trying to transfer.

Here's one thing you may want to consider: The U.S. Postal Service offers something called the National Deliverability Index. An NDI score indicates how accurately the addresses in a mailing list match the latest address data maintained by the U.S. Postal Service. Mailing lists are matched using automated address verification programs. A good database company, if asked, will disclose this index to you. It's a way that the U.S. Post Office can help you and all your friends in Nigeria.

If you need to purchase another list of Americans who are willing to give up their private financial information in order to help you with your $30 million transfer, first try World Wrestling Entertainment - they may have plenty of good prospects for you. But be sure to get a sample first. Many list companies will send you 10 or 15 names for you to validate. And then when you ultimately get your list, make sure it's in a format where you can easily import it into a database or computer program, and is compatible with Microsoft Excel, or in text format that can be imported. Once imported, you've got to make sure you're doing the right follow-ups too.

Because that's one thing I noticed you didn't do very well Mr. Muhammadu: Your follow-up was pretty lame. I just got one lousy e-mail from you. I realize I'm a little too busy right now, but a couple more e-mails or even a letter (especially when you write them so endearingly in all caps with those catchy misspellings) might have further enticed me to pay more attention to your plight.

I'm not so crazy about the e-mail thing, either, Mr. Muhammadu. Many database companies lack good e-mail information. And I'm not sure how many people opted in to receive your e-mail, even as enticing as it seems to be. The last thing you want is someone reporting you to the Nigerian Federal Trade Commission or putting you on some kind of blacklist. How then would you ever transfer your $30 million? Think, Mr. Muhammadu, think! Maybe in future you can use this data for regular direct mailing and telemarketing in addition to some e-mailing.

Here's an even better option: Instead of buying your list from a database company or from the WWE, you might want to either buy or rent from a magazine or trade publication. They're a little more expensive and some of them are only for limited use. However, I've had great success when I buy or rent lists from industry publications because their list of subscribers is updated. In future you may want to try respected trade periodicals like Architects With No Brains Digest or the popular Morons Weekly. Here you may find a very targeted population of American subscribers who, I bet, would be very interested in your plight.

I've met some penny pinchers who avoid buying lists altogether. They find that after spending the five or 10 grand, and throwing out 50 percent of the data, they're spending even more time cleaning up what's left.

I talked to one such penny-pincher, a friend of mine in Kenya named Ngobe Ngayaka, and he said that when he sends e-mails to Americans asking to transfer his millions of dollars, he pays local high school students an hourly wage to dig up names from the Internet.

"Sure, my list of dumb Americans is smaller than if we would purchase a list," he said to me over a delicious bowl of ugali one night. "But my high school students are quite good at finding fools and idiots from your country from online sites. And at the hourly wage I pay them, I get much better data for the investment." Ngobe and I always poke fun at each other - I like to make fun of his country's soccer team. He makes jokes about my country's entire adult population. Oh, we just laugh and laugh.

But enough kidding around.

Mr. Muhammadu, I realize that you are trying to transfer a serious amount of money out of your country before you lose it. You desperately need our help. If anyone can help, please contact him - and have your banking and personal credit information available. Let someone come forward and live up to the reputation we Americans have around Nigeria, Kenya and the rest of the world.

Gene Marks, CPA, is the owner of the Marks Group, which sells customer relationship, service and financial management tools to small and midsized businesses.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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